New Healthy Soils Program Seeking Farmers to Apply for Funding

A farmer stands next to his towering 3-legume mix cover crop in late April. Planting cover crops is one of 17 practices eligible for incentive grants under the new Healthy Soils Program.

California’s much anticipated Healthy Soils Program officially launched yesterday with the release of the first Request for Grant Applications (RGA) by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The deadline for applications is 5pm on September 19th.

The first of its kind in the country, the program will provide grants to farmers and ranchers for implementing on-farm practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or store carbon in soil, trees and shrubs. Types of practices that will be eligible include the addition of mulch and compost, cover cropping, reduced tillage, and the planting of herbaceous and woody plants such as windbreaks, hedgerows, riparian plantings, filter strips, silvopasture and more.

Three types of grants will be available:

  1. Direct farmer grants: Incentives of up to $50,000 per farm or ranch for the implementation of one or more new soil and conservation management practices.
  2. Outreach and Education/Demonstration grants: Demonstration projects funded with grants of up to $100,000 for soil improvement practices that reduce GHGs and increase soil health, and also have an outreach and demonstration component to showcase the healthy soils practices and promote their widespread adoption throughout the state. These will likely involve partnerships between producers and non-profits, Resource Conservation Districts and/or academic or extension departments.
  3. Research/Demonstration grants: Demonstration projects funded with grants of up to $250,000. These are similar to the prior category of demonstration project, but in addition to outreach and education on healthy soils practices, these projects must include measurement and data collection on GHG emissions and carbon sequestration.

CalCAN and our network of partners have been strong champions for this groundbreaking program, and advocated for the program’s inclusion in legislation. In 2016, SB 859 established the program in statute. We commend CDFA for their efforts in launching the Healthy Soils Program and for incorporating public comment in the design, and we hope and expect to see strong interest from farmers and ranchers from across California.

The Healthy Soils Program is funded with cap-and-trade allowance revenue. With the extension of cap-and-trade through 2030 by the legislature a couple of weeks ago, the funds available to support voluntary actions to reduce GHGs in every sector of our economy are expected to grow considerably in the coming years.

CalCAN will continue to engage our partners in making the case for the importance of sustainable agriculture—importantly including the Healthy Soils Program—in the state’s toolkit of climate solutions.

Here is a list of links to resources to assist growers in applying:

  • For a farmer fact sheet from CalCAN: click here
  • For a guide to the application’s narrative questions (with templates): click here
  • For Incentives Program application materials and a schedule of application assistance workshops and webinars: click here
  • For Demonstration Projects application materials and a schedule of application assistance workshops and webinars: click here
  • For a 5-minute introduction video and schedule of training webinars for COMET-Planner, the calculator required for most applications: click here (video) and here (schedule)

For more background on the history of the Healthy Soils Initiative and CalCAN’s advocacy role in its establishment, click here.

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